Tag Archives | Science Fiction

A League of His Own

I’ve watched the Snyder Cut. I’m neither a Snyder superfan nor a Snyder hater, so I went in prepared for it to be either better or worse than the Whedon-Snyder hybrid version, though obviously I was hoping for better. And better indeed it is; I enjoyed it much more. To be sure, each has elements I liked that the other lacks; still, the tone of the Snyder version is much less uneven than that of the hybrid, as one would expect.

Comparisons between the Whedon and Snyder versions are sometimes surprising, though; a lot of humour one might have thought was Whedon turns out to be Snyder (though of course a lot also doesn’t), and one major montagey scene that looked like pure vintage Snyder turned out to be Whedon.

A lot of people are rolling their eyes about the four-hour runtime, but I greatly preferred the measured pace and slow burn that gives the story and characters more time to breathe. In particular, Cyborg, Cyborg’s father, and the Flash get a lot more to do. Also, although Snyder continues to operate better at the “moment” level than at the “scene” level (to quote one perceptive YouTube analyst I can’t seem to find now), that vice is less in evidence when he’s allowed more time.

Plus: in this era where people demand to bingewatch an entire season it’s a bit odd to complain about a movie’s length, especially since it’s online rather than in a theatre so you can pause whenever you like, and in any case Snyder has broken the movie into six chapters so you can treat it as a six-episode miniseries and watch one episode at a time if you’re so inclined.

The “Knightmare” flashforwards in this movie finally make sense of the earlier ones in Batman v. Superman; if you put them all together you get a fairly clear picture of what happens in the future that Barry wants Bruce to avert.

Not everything is better in the Snyder cut. I like Whedon’s Steppenwolf better (Snyder admittedly gives him better motivations and backstory, but the Whedon version gives him more personality and more menace). Wonder Woman’s now-familiar theme music gets used only once; instead there’s a new Wonder Woman leitmotiv that, while I like it, I’ve gotta say is overused. And a couple of her new scenes make no sense (I won’t go into details, because spoilers). The Snyder version also asks us to believe that one of the villains just forgot the location of the thing he desires most in life. Snyder’s ending to the Lois/Martha scene completely undercuts it; one of the new characters is just shoehorned awkwardly in; and I’m not crazy about the aspect ratio (which I gather Snyder chose mainly in the hope of future IMAX showings).

And in both versions, the Apokoliptians all look like rough-hewn CGI video game monsters rather than actual characters. That can only make things difficult for the upcoming New Gods movie, at least if that’s supposed to be in continuity with the earlier movies – though the likewise upcoming Flash movie may hand DC a get-out-of-continuity-free card.

One final note: in the hybrid version, the narration over the flashback scene of hiding the motherboxes seems to be a direct homage to the opening of Fellowship of the Ring; if you were wondering whether that was Snyder’s idea or Whedon’s, lo, it was Whedon’s – the Snyder narration is much less Fellowship-y. Though of course the idea of three major peoples each receiving a perilous magical gifty remains.


Learning MacLeod’s World

In my latest YouTube interview, I chat with science fiction author Ken MacLeod about Scottish space opera, libertarianism and Marxism, individualist anarchism, the Austrian calculation debate, Neoreaction, Brexit, Scottish independence, paternalism and anti-vaping laws, James Hutton and deep time, the Scottish Enlightenment, what he owes to David Friedman, what he owes to Margaret Thatcher, and that time Charles Darwin changed history by vomiting.


The Saga of David Friedman

Here’s a New Year’s Day (well, as things turned out, a day-after-New-Year’s-Day) treat for you Agoric Fanatics: a fascinating interview with economist and legal scholar David Friedman.

Topics covered include: free-market anarchism; the Society for Creative Anachronism; tectonic geology; the quasi-anarchic legal systems of medieval Iceland and 18th-century England; being converted to anarchism by Robert Heinlein; how getting a Ph.D. in physics led to being an economist at a law school; the joys of fomenting war and exploiting one’s students; how he repeatedly achieved promotion through violence against his predecessors; how to make medieval armor both for humans and for turnips; how innovations in fireplace design facilitated adultery; and the perils of central planning for wizards.

I also experimented with a new (for me) audiovisual thingie starting around 5:45 – check it out!


Mysterious Galaxy!

First in a series on indie bookstores in the San Diego area (my hometown)! In this episode, I chat with Matthew Berger, new co-owner of Mysterious Galaxy (website; facebook page), a bookstore featuring titles in science fiction, fantasy, mystery, horror, etc., as well as merchandise, podcasts, author events, etc.


Closely Watched Brains; or, Czech Your Premises: A Bohemian Rhapsody

[cross-posted at POT and RCL]

Czech out this exclusive! expanded! three-part version of my 2019 Prague lecture on “Austro-Libertarian Themes in Three Prague Authors: Čapek, Kafka, and Hašek.”

(See the descriptions on YouTube for links to various items mentioned in my three discussions.)

In Part 1, on Karel Čapek (1890-1938), I discuss: intelligent, morally ambiguous salamanders; rebellious, morally ambiguous robots; the effects on supply and demand of unleashing the Absolute; a critique of the labour theory of Labour Day; the geometrical logic of imperial expansion; why police detectives have no interest in mysteries; the merits and demerits of government theme parks devoted to the preservation of Czech folkways; the magic word by means of which the English protect their property; why God can only be a witness and never a judge; the role of clumsiness in advancing civilisation; the benefits and hazards of replacing feet with wheels; inspirational workplace posters suitable for shackled newts; how I ran into one of Čapek’s robots in the lounge of the Auburn Hotel and Conference Center; and the crucifixion of Christ as a sensible protectionist measure.

Note: contrary to what I say in the video, I believe that the R.U.R. cover designed by Čapek’s brother Josef is not the one I show there, but instead this (rather better) one:

Incidentally, Josef Čapek also designed this Kropotkin cover:

On the subject of corrections, I think it may actually have been Paul Cantor rather than Ralph Raico who was in the company of my old stage partner in the Mises conference anecdote I tell. I’m not sure. Jeez, my memory is crap these days. Um, what was I saying?

In Part 2, on Franz Kafka (1883-1924), I discuss: theological versus political readings of Kafka’s vision of elusive, perpetually deferred authority; bureaucracy as hopelessly incompetent and out-of-touch, versus bureaucracy as all-pervasive surveillance; the dependence of rulership on those who rule; Stoic versus anti-Stoic readings of Seneca’s Medea; discovering Kafka through Marvel Comics (or not); and remembering Kropotkin but forgetting Nietzsche’s umbrella.

On second thought I don’t think the April 1982 issue of Epic Illustrated can have been my introduction to Kafka after all, as Dartmouth was running an Orson Welles film festival which I attended while I was living in Hanover NH, 1977-1981, which certainly included The Trial.

Speaking of which, here are some clips from the Welles movie:

I also meant to include this passage from Kafka on his own bureaucratic career (oh well): “What a fine thing it is to be a clerk at a town hall! Little work, adequate salary, plenty of leisure, excessive respect everywhere in the town …. and if I only could, I should like to give this entire dignity to the office cat to eat ….” (Still, at least his office had a cat; that seems like some solace.)

In Part 3, on Jaroslav Hašek (1883-1923), I discuss: the perversities of bureaucratic incentives; the state as a parasite on private crime; the importance of providing every voter with a pocket aquarium; the dangers of displaying, or not displaying, portraits of the Emperor; access to one lavatory as a bribe for permission to reopen another lavatory; electoral campaigns as anarchist street theatre; justice in canine nomenclature; what happens when criminals go on strike; the forgotten economic costs of farting; the ethical, logistical, and grammatical aspects of assassinating Archduke Ferdinand; my success and the Soviets’ failure in deciphering Czech signage; and the economic transaction that I conducted with a nun in the men’s room of the Vatican.

And finally, here’s a clip from the movie version of Hašek’s novel The Good Soldier Švejk:


Meanwhile, in a Parallel Election

[cross-posted on POT, RCL, and facebook]

I voted!

No, not in the u.s. election – Ἀθηνᾶ κρείττων!

Nah, I voted for which book we will read next in the Auburn Science Fiction and Philosophy Reading Group.

This was a more cheerful and civilised affair than the u.s. election in at least seven ways:

1. Minority choices have no trouble getting on the ballot; any individual member of the group can nominate a book (or several), without having to collect multiple signatures on a petition.

2. The number of participants is small enough that any individual vote has an actual chance of making a decisive difference to the outcome.

3. Voting involves rank-ordering the candidates via an online Condorcet poll, so no one has to choose between voting for their favourite among the front runners and voting for their favourite absolutely.

4. We choose a new book every month or two, so there’s strict rotation in office with very short terms – no perpetually incumbent books.

5. The reading group is a purely voluntary association. If any members aren’t happy with the winning choice, and want to go off on their own to read and discuss a different book, the rest of us wouldn’t dream of trying to stop them, let alone telling them that by voting (or by not voting) they have committed themselves to reading the winning book.

6. All the books nominated look worthwhile, and I would be happy to read and discuss any of them.

7. Facebook has not been reminding me every few minutes to vote for the next book.

O idéal lointain!


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